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22 Jul, 2013 12:51

Russian official slams US for turning down Moscow's extradition requests

The US is pressuring Russia to hand over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to face espionage charges. However, it routinely denies Russian requests to hand over suspected criminals living in America.

“Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to,” spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry Andrey Pilipchuk said on Monday.

He named Ilyas Akhmadov and Tamaz Nalbandov as examples of people living in the US, who Russia unsuccessfully tried to get for prosecution.

Akhmadov, a former officer in the Soviet Union’s Red Army, joined the militant movement in the Russian Republic of Chechnya in the early 1990s, fighting for some time along with the notorious terrorist Shamil Basayev. He is wanted in Russia over his connection to crimes committed by the insurgents.

He served as an official of the short-lived ‘government of Ichkeria’, an entity which wanted to form a sovereign Islamist state on Chechen territory. In 1999, Akhmadov was appointed ‘Foreign Minister of Ichkeria’, and toured Western countries to rally support for his cause.

After Moscow re-established control over Chechnya, he settled in the US in 2003 and sought political asylum there. He received it a year later, despite objections from the US Department of Homeland Security.

Nalbandov, an ethnic Ossetian, is suspected of abduction and extortion in Russia. In 2001, he was placed on domestic and international wanted lists.

In 2000, he moved to the US seeking political asylum and successfully obtained it. He was granted a residence permit in 2002.

Russia sought extradition of both men on several occasions in vain.

The criticism comes as the US pressures Russia to hand over Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, who exposed the agency’s secret surveillance programs and the role that other countries played in them.

Snowden is stranded at a Moscow airport after arriving there from Hong Kong last month. The US cancelled his  passport as part of its effort to apprehend him and prosecute him on espionage charges. His limbo status means Snowden is unable to leave the airport’s transit zone in any direction.

The whistleblower is seeking political asylum in several countries, including Russia. Moscow tried to distance itself from Snowden’s case, although several Russian officials voiced their support for him and called on the government to help him.

Snowden won sympathies from activists worldwide, as many people see him as a hero, who sacrificed his career and possibly freedom to expose questionable secretive government policies. Russian human rights activists supporting the American said they regularly receive offers of money, jobs and even marriage to Snowden, the latter to facilitate his entrance to the country.